Thursday, June 17, 2010

Vijnana and Prajna

Vijnana, or disciminating consciousness, is the third link of the chain of dependent origination that binds us all to the wheel of life, death, and rebirth.  I've written much about this in prior posts.  As always, where there is yin there is yang, and the other side of the vijnana coin is prajna. 

In Buddhist language, prajna is usually translated as wisdom, or "greater knowing."  Another translation, which unlocks many mysteries of wisdom itself, it to translate the pra- as "bubbling forth". This is spontaneous, unconditioned knowing that springs forth from the Void fully formed. 

Vijnana, then, contains the goal oriented, logical, patterned, organized system of thinking that we associate with wordly intelligence.  Prajna is none of that.  Prajna is free from all patterns, conditions, and organized systems.

It might be tempting to think that the goal of spiritual practice is to go from vijnana to prajna.  In Taoist teachings, this sort of one over the other is imbalanced.  Prajna may be spontaneous and creative, but vijnana has its place.  If one were to undergo surgery, one would likely prefer the surgeon act according to logic and reason, based on her experience and medical learning rather than "just doing."  Vijnana is useful, even essential for dealing with the world.   

Vijnana and prajna can correlate to yuan shen and shi shen.  As seen there, the problem is generally that vijnana has outgrown prajna and must be brought into a harmonious balance. 

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